DECOLONIZING THE CLASSROOM

Earlier this morning, Thursday, November 19, 2020, the faculty here at the University of Lethbridge received a rather puzzling missive. We’re being told that the University would like us to cooperate in “the decolonization of the classroom.” 

Not having the faintest idea what this could mean, I’ve enquired of my colleagues. Silence has been the stern reply. I can only surmise they don’t know what it means either. But to admit they don’t is to reveal themselves as unwoke. Their silence may not be their finest hour; it’s not for me to say. But in any case that’s a their problem, not mine. Mine is to do as I’ve been asked, just as soon as I’ve figured out what that is.

Too quick. I say “I can only surmise …”, but there’s a more charitable interpretation of my colleagues’ silence, is there not? It could be they figure that since they don’t know what it means, neither does anyone else. Since no one knows what it means, it’s meaningless. And since it’s meaningless it’s harmless. It’s just virtue signalling. But to call the Administration out on its virtue signalling, harmless though it may be, would be gratuitously churlish. And one has no professional obligation to be gratuitously churlish.

If so then I’m the one being precisely what we all abhor. I’m being gratuitously churlish. But I’m too far into this curmudgeon-ism to pull out now. So for what it’s worth – which is clearly nothing at all – I’m going to assume that decolonizing the classroom means something, and that it’s something I should get on board with, just as soon as I figure out what it is.

I think we can pretty much rule out ab initio that our classrooms have suffered an ant infestation and we should be calling an exterminator. Rather what’s meant is that we’ve been teaching the colonizer’s curriculum. We’ve been teaching it in the colonizer’s language, deploying the colonizer’s concepts, imposing the colonizer’s ‘categories of the understanding’, telling the colonizer’s story … And doing all this, whether knowingly or not, in an effort to recruit our students to the colonizer’s colonialist ends. 

And so we should try to replace all this with …?

I teach Analytic Philosophy, so you can see why I might be at a bit of a loss here. If we got rid of the canon – as colonialist and patriarchal as it clearly is – I’m not sure what if anything would be left. Certainly nothing I could teach.

But perhaps decolonizing just means critiquing the colonizer’s language, concepts, categories, stories, and ends. If so I’m at even more of a loss. Analytic Philosophy just is the critical examination of our language, concepts, categories, stories, and ends.

“Not so,” I’ve been told. “A critique of the colonizer’s mindset using the tools of the colonizer’s mindset cannot but prove inert. One can only critique it from outside of itself, by abandoning the colonizer’s language and concepts and categories and stories and ends. Yes it’s hard, which means you just need to try harder. You need to shut your eyes and try to think in a way other than the way you were lead to believe was the only way one can think.”

So from now on, no law of the excluded middle? No modus ponens? No test for validity and consistency …? Because they’ve all been the tools of colonialism?

Okay, this is a straw man. Decolonization means none of this nonsense. It just means setting alternative narratives side by side with those of the colonizer. “You say we came across the Bering Straight. We say we were here from the beginning of time. To what purpose would you demand a blood sample? To prove that we’re ignorant of our own history? That we need you to set us straight like a parent corrects a child? Why do you care to unmask our ignorance if not to assert and reinforce your superiority and dominance? Knowledge is political. It was where you came from. Do you imagine it’s any different now that you’re over here?”

Then by all means have it your own way, but leave us to have it ours. In your neo- residential … I mean your Indigenous Studies courses, teach that your ancestors jousted with dinosaurs, in ours we’ll teach they came across the Bering Strait. Each to his own. Separate but equal. Only this time truly equal!

“After you’ve taken our land? I think not. Equal only after we rewind to before you took our land.”

Oh? In what sense was it your land?

What?!

What makes you think it was your land?

“Because we were here first.”

No you weren’t. “Nature red in tooth and claw” applies no less to humans. You took the land from the people who were here before you, and they from the people before them, and so on. In fact Antarctica aside, there isn’t a square inch on this planet that hasn’t seen one people either eliminated, displaced, or assimilated by another. And after this many hundreds of millennia on the planet, many times over. There’s as much European blood in you as ‘indigenous’. So whatever your white half owes your red half, I’d say it’s a wash, wouldn’t you? 

The myth of indigenous exceptionalism is just that. We each have our own peculiar way of coming to believe whatever nonsense we each come to believe. But there are no “indigenous ways of knowing”. Addicted as we both are to our smart phones, you wouldn’t survive in the wilderness an hour longer than I would. And when (what became) the Creek Nation was dumped in eastern Oklahoma at the end of the Trail of Tears, they brought with them black slaves to work their cotton fields. Slaves that weren’t emancipated until 1866.

Okay, that wasn’t very woke. And yes, unwokeness can be brutal sometimes. I really don’t want to make my unwokeness worse, but I figure in for a penny, in for a pound. So here goes.

We’re now in the process of colonizing the moon. If this is an injustice it can only be  to those from poorer nations who aren’t being cut in on it. So colonization as such is no vice. Colonizing the grasslands is how we were able to come down from the trees. Pressing outwards, by whatever name you prefer, is how we fed ourselves when there wasn’t enough to eat where we were.

When one people colonizes another the two share what each does a little or a lot better. Central heating and flush toilets are just better than campfires and a hole in the ground. Better by what measure? By whether people prefer to flush or dig after they’ve taken a shit. Some cultural practices – like predicting the weather from the entrails of a bird – just aren’t worth preserving, which is why they’re not preserved. Call it cultural genocide if you like, but without it we’d still be guarding the mouth of our caves.

Do the colonized pay a price for their colonization? Yes. As does the colonizer. We gave you smallpox; you repaid us with syphilis. There’s no free lunch for either of us. But in the wake of India’s reverse-colonization of England, at least that lunch can be tasted. The Normans colonized the Saxons, the Saxons the Celts, the Celts the Britons, and the Britons the creatures of the forest. If God didn’t want it that way, He should never have given us the opposable thumb.

Like so many others – terrorism, coercion, denialism, capitalism – colonialism is a con word, a word “Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.” But I don’t think there are any knaves here. I think our Administrators are just fools trapped by other fools. As am I. But not fool enough to be trapped by any of this particular foolishness. Catch me on a less cantankerous day and I’ll see what I can do.



Categories: Critical Thinking, Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask, Social and Political Philosophy, Why My Colleagues Are Idiots

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12 replies

  1. Canada was a colony of the UK until it became a nation in 1867, when it ceased to be a colony. But “colonialism” is a timeless, endless epithet that in 2020 has nothing to do with being, or even recently having been a colony. In fact it had nothing to do with “colony” even in1920.

    The giveaway is the use of the abstracting suffix “ism”. As soon as that suffix gets appended it takes a specific, definable word like “capital” or “commune” or a name like “Marx” and takes it into a limitlessly broad concept about which people have endless and largely meaningless conflicts.

    But that “ism” concoction has its benefits. Once someone invents “colonialism” as being a force today one can then attack ideas or people the inventor dislikes by calling them colonizers. It means the same thing as calling them “assholes”, but sounds a lot more learned. I am not aware of any University offering courses in “asshole studies”, but colonialism, a current synonym, is the basis of several academic careers.

    I don’t understand why you choose to remain an unloved professor of philosophy (a colonizer’s subject of study, of course) when you could be a much beloved professor of anti-colonialism studies.

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  2. Well-stated, Someone.

    I have more to say, but in the meantime ….

    On the matter of “-isms”, I came across a short article I think worth a read:

    Zen Master, Ven. Shikai Zuiko o-sensei provides some sage advice, worthy of a philosopher, for when one encounters an “ism”: “The next time you come across an ism or an ist, stop, look, ask yourself if you know what is being talked about. If you are asked a question as to whether you are or are not an ism or an ist, stop, look, before you cross that gap and give an answer. What you mean and what the other person means could be two entirely different things”. Zuiko o-sensei, Ven. Shikai. “3:isms and ists: The Language of Self-Image.” White Wind Zen Community. Online Article. January 26, 2002. http://wwzc.org/dharma-text/3-isms-and-ists-language-self-image

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  3. I have not read “Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact ” by Vine Deloria, Jr. However,

    Paul’s statement “teach that your ancestors jousted with dinosaurs” brought to mind a review of Deloria’s book by David Brumble entitled, “Vine Deloria Jr, Creationsim, and Ethnic Pseudo-science”, Reports of the National Center for Science Education, Volume 18, No. 6, November-December 1998, https://ncse.ngo/vine-deloria-jr-creationism-and-ethnic-pseudoscience (Full text)

    Brumble writes,

    “[Deloria’s] books have brought Indian concerns to a broad audience. He burst upon the scene in 1969 with Custer Died for Your Sins, and he has continued to write about injustices done the Indians by the government, the schools, the church, anthropologists, and the courts. Most recently he has taken on the scientists in Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact. Imagine how Deloria’s own people must have felt when this distinguished man returned to the Standing Rock Reservation to talk — no, to consult — with them about science. Deloria describes just such a scene in this book. He returns to the reservation and delivers a speech. In this speech he discusses a problem in paleontology that he is currently working on. Deloria believes that a certain sawtooth-backed “monster” in one of the Sioux tales is really a stegosaurus:

    After my speech a couple of the traditional people approached me and said that the next time I came, if I had time, they would take me to see the spot where the people last saw this creature, implying that it was still possible to see the animal during the last century before the reservations were established. I gave their knowledge credence (p 243).

    Deloria is telling us that he believes that these “traditional people” have helped him to prove that the scientists are wrong — that dinosaurs did not go extinct millions of years ago; a hundred years ago the Sioux saw the stegosaurus walking in the Badlands. He “gave their knowledge credence.” Imagine how these “traditional people,” these Standing Rock Sioux, must have felt to have Vine Deloria, a university professor and one of their own, talking with them seriously about paleontology — and giving credence to what they were able to tell him about the stegosaurus, what they were able to tell him out of the storehouse of their traditional knowledge. Anyone who knows anything at all about American Indian history must understand what a moment this must have been.”


    Brumble, H. David. “Vine Deloria, Jr., Creationism, and Ethnic Pseudoscience.” American Literary History, vol. 10, no. 2, 1998, pp. 335–346. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/490166. Accessed 23 Nov. 2020.

    Deloria responds to Brumble’s criticism,

    Deloria, Vine. “Response to David Brumble.” American Literary History, vol. 10, no. 2, 1998, pp. 347–349. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/490167. Accessed 23 Nov. 2020.

    I do not mean to imply that all indigenous criticisms of science are along the lines of those articulated by Deloria.

    Some might be interested in the exchange between Deloria and Brumble. And perhaps Deloria’s book, Red Earth, White Lies: https://www.amazon.ca/Red-Earth-White-Lies-Scientific-ebook/dp/B07RWL9BKN

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  4. Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science: Dr. Leroy Little Bear talk. Jan 14, 2015. Banff.

    Re: Blackfoot knowledge/quantum physics.

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  5. Vine Deloria Jr. and Leroy Little Bear are not unrepresentative of the “decolonization” view. According to Marlene Brant Castellano (the research director for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples), “revelation” is one of the sources of “indigenous knowledge”. “Indigenization” means adding indigenous “ways of knowing” to the curriculum; “decolonization” means removing elements that are believed to be oppressive to indigenous people. Science and analytic philosophy are seen as oppressive because they impart “violence” by claiming that the belief of an indigenous person is not supported by reason, evidence and logic. As I told Dr. Viminitz a few days ago, the only way that he can decolonize his classroom is to resign and “make space” for an indigenous scholar, as a white person teaching “indigenous philosophy” is cultural appropriation.

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    • The World Council of Indigenous Peoples defines Indigenous peoples as “people living in countries which have populations composed of different ethnic or racial groups, who are descendants of the earliest populations living in the area, and who do not as a group control the national government of the countries within which they live.” It would seem to follow, then, that the Maori are not the indigenous people of New Zealand, and the indigenous people of Hawaii only BECAME the indigenous people of Hawaii after the American occupation. Worse yet, it’s entirely possible that the World Council of Indigenous Peoples are not themselves indigenous people. Oh well, maybe definitions are more of a colonialist thing.

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  6. “Decoding decolonization and other big concepts”, University of Calgary, https://www.ucalgary.ca/news/decoding-decolonization-and-other-big-concepts

    The above article is short if you want to give it a read. I’m going to take a closer look at one paragraph as follows,

    “In the future, I see Indigenous people playing a larger and more prominent role in Canadian society. Indigenous people are increasingly active in the political, economic, social, and legal aspects of Canadian life. One way to achieve that is through Indigenization. Indigenization means integrating and appreciating the Indigenous people and their knowledge. It also means to accept their understanding, worldview, voice, epistemology and ontology as valid and incorporating it into the policies, procedures, curriculum, and ethos of an establishment. Indigenous people have valuable insights and skills that will enhance an organization and Canadian society in general.”

    Cursory comments:

    1) “Appreciating” describes the mental state of an appreciator. Who is required to “appreciate” and how will this appreciation be brought about? Since “diversity” is the buzz-word of today, wouldn’t we expect diverse individuals to have diverse experiences of what they “appreciate”? And are indigenous people free to express their appreciation, indifference, or contempt of elements of their own culture within their own communities? If one can look at the good and the bad in her own community/culture, why expect outsiders to wholly embrace/appreciate elements of that community/culture?

    A dislike of cabbage rolls does not equate to a dislike of Ukrainian people.

    2) “Knowledge”. Good grief. What is meant here by knowledge? For more than two thousand years western philosophers have defined knowledge as a justified true belief. And these philosophers have spent all this time examining the concept of knowledge. If there is some indigenous concept of knowledge, by all means define it and put it on the table. But having done so, that concept is, in a scholarly community, open to criticism. And it may or may not hold up to scrutiny.

    3) “Epistemology” and “ontology” come to us from western analytic philosophy. So does the word “valid”. What is meant by the word “valid” here? In analytic philosophy, a valid argument is an deductive argument FORM in which it is impossible for the conclusion to be false if the premises are true. If the premises are actually true, and are related to the conclusion in the right way so that the conclusion is guaranteed to be true, the argument is sound.

    But by “valid” the speaker in this excerpt, Cora Voyageur, seems to mean “acceptable”, which is a use of the term in common parlance. The words “epistemology” and “ontology” are NOT used in common parlance. And undefined here, the terms seem to be used to give a veneer of sophistication to Voyageur’s verbiage.

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  7. The following paper is linked through an article on the Quad blog, University of Alberta, entitled “Centring Indigenization and Decolonization of the Classroom”. ( Jennifer Ward and Jillian Ames, Nov 6 [2020?]) https://blog.ualberta.ca/centring-indigenization-and-decolonizing-of-the-academy-7fe1b680bc67

    Pete, Shauneen. “100 ways to Indigenize and decolonize academic programs and courses.” University of Regina (2015).

    https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/aps/index.php/aps/article/view/27455/pdf

    Two quick comments about items from Shauneen’s list:

    1) Suggestion #74 describes my ideal senior philosophy class, mentor and students having a conversation.

    “Consider moving away from lecture-style course delivery to classroom design that encourages dialogue (circle format; small table groupings; other approaches).”

    2) It would be nice to know what “indigenous ways of knowing” means,

    “81. Disrupt the idea that Indigenous ways of knowing are subordinate to dominant ways of knowing.”

    Maybe the following .pdf document, “What are Indigenous and Western Ways of Knowing?”* , published by SSHRC, will help clear things up (click on “.pdf” for free access),

    https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/aps/index.php/aps/article/view/27455

    Nope. Clear as mud. Part of the hang-up is the use of the terms “knowledges” and “knowing”. Paul suggests, and I agree, that replacing these terms with “beliefs” and “believing” would make sense out of nonsense. There are many ways people come by their beliefs. But that’s a duh.

    *This is one of a series of five fact sheets drawn from a research paper called Learning across Indigenous and Western knowledge systems and intersectionality: Reconciling social science research approaches (2018) by L. Levac, L. McMurtry, D. Stienstra, G. Baikie, C. Hanson and D. Mucina. The fact sheets were authored by J. Stinson, designed by Ellyn Lusis and Tiffany Murphy, and formatted by B. Ryan. The fact sheets, full research paper, and related resources are available at http://www.criaw-icref.ca.

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  8. Here’s my worry.

    Universities Canada Principles on Indigenous Education, June 29, 2015.
    https://www.univcan.ca/media-room/media-releases/universities-canada-principles-on-indigenous-education/

    Universities Canada recognises that indigenous students are “underrepresented in Canadian higher education.” And so an laudable aim of Canadian universities is to “close the education gap” in order to improve the standard of living for indigenous people. Noted here is that indigenous people with a university degree earn 60% more than indigenous people who have only a high school diploma.

    The following excerpt appears further along in this short article,

    “Universities benefit from the presence of Indigenous students and their cultures, making our campuses more open places with wider sources of discovery and knowledge. Mutual respect for different ways of knowing and recognizing the intellectual contributions of Indigenous people is essential to building trust, understanding, and sharing. The cohabitation of Western science and Indigenous knowledge on campuses has the power of opening a dialogue among cultures and enhancing our shared knowledge.”

    Is by closing the education gap meant putting degrees in indigenous students hands or is by closing the education gap meant ensuring, behind those degrees, that indigenous students graduate with the competence required to compete with their non-indigenous peers? To evaluate arguments, to express themselves clearly, to navigate a world that challenges even those born with all the political and social advantages?

    I worry that by closing the education gap is meant in the sense of enclosing and reifying a SUBSTANTIVE education gap. The incessant handwaving at ways-of-knowing talk, dismissing its critique as a colonist agenda, does little to allay my worry.

    The current move is to claim that my notion of substantive education is that of the colonizer’s western ways of thinking (knowing) and objectives. The irony is that the notions of colonialism/decolonization, “ways of knowing” (whatever that means), and even making comparisons between Western science and “indigenous knowledges” ARE those of the colonist. (As are the notions of getting a degree and earning more than one’s peers.)

    Ensuring indigenous people have the education and critical skills to call bullshit on such bullshit, be it “colonial” or “indigenous” bullshit — including the freedom and ability to critique these terms — is a more promising path to indigenous empowerment.

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  9. I’ve added a number of comments to this thread. Please bear with me for another two-part comment for which I will ask Paul to weigh in.

    I’ve been toying with the notions of “decolonizing” and “indigenizing” the classroom, wondering what a classroom might thereafter look like.

    Part one.

    A complaint made by some advocates of indigenization is that the EDI (equity, diversity, and inclusivity) project gets conflated with the indigenization project, when in fact they are two different projects. Although indigenization does seem to fall under the EDI auspices.

    Some advocates of indigenization worry that new immigrants will pick up the “dominant” view of indigenous people, including pejorative stereotypes, and so indigenization is meant, as one of its aims, to ameliorate these adopted views.

    Decolonization co-travels with indigenization, since the dominant (colonial) views are to be “deconstructed” in order to make room for indigenous views, e.g. “ways of knowing” and “ways of being”. (Whatever these terms mean.)

    However, decolonization applies to other peoples who were colonized, and particularly those who are, or believe themselves to be, in a subordinate position to the colonizer. Decolonization makes room for their views as well. Hence, decolonization co-travels with EDI projects.

    Some interesting problems arise from the junctures of EDI, decolonization, and indigenization, problems with many tendrils. Among them are the following.

    Advocates of indigenization and immigrants arriving from colonized countries should be natural allies in as far as decolonization. But in the same way that radical feminists and trans-activists should be natural allies, but aren’t, not all colonized people are natural allies in the decolonization project.

    If we move the colonizer out, your smudging and my call to prayer are going to come into conflict. I suspect the EDI project has a diplomatic aim to mitigate these emerging problems, such as “Hey guys, we can all smudge and pray, be ourselves, get along.” Diplomacy isn’t a bad aim, so long as it isn’t myopic and sloppy – problems that can’t be rectified when advocates become prickly about criticism. Such is a common peril of advocacy.

    Another worry that arises is that indigenous peoples might pick up some of the prejudices, in the negative sense, of some of their colonizers. Here’s a sample case. David Ahenakew, military veteran, recipient of the Order of Canada (revoked, 2005) and former chief of the assembly of First Nations, “told a reporter that the Holocaust was a good thing and praised Adolf Hitler for having “fried” six million Jews during the Second World War.”

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/disgraced-ahenakew-to-lose-order-of-canada-honour-1.541506

    To be clear many then-aboriginal-and-now-indigenous people condemned, and still condemn, Ahenakew’s anti-Semitic remarks. I’m curious about whether and who would attribute Ahenakew’s remarks to his being subordinated to his oppressor’s beliefs, or whether and who would maintain that Ahenakew is able to think for himself and simply holds some nasty beliefs?

    Anyway, SOME indigenous people were willing to forgive Ahenakew’s anti-Semitism because of his years of service to indigenous rights,

    “The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations is standing behind its decision to reinstate the controversial Ahenakew, saying a lifetime spent fighting for native people’s rights outweighed the five-year-old comment the former national chief made likening Jews to a disease. A federation chief told the media that he and his fellow chiefs felt that Ahenakew, who was quietly welcomed back into the fold last week, had suffered enough for the anti-Semitic remarks he made to a reporter.”

    https://www.worldjewishcongress.org/en/news/canadian-jews-criticize-return-of-anti-semitic-native-leader

    Others might compare Ahenakew’s pardon to the notion of pardoning Bill Cosby (which hasn’t happened), who suffered enough for drugging women for sexual purposes given the years of comedy with which he enriched the lives of so many youths in North America (mine included), and the many dollars he spent subsidizing and advocating for the education of young black people.

    But there’s another interesting case of late, January 2020, at York University. An executive member of the Aboriginal Students Association at York [ASAY] was called out as anti-Semitic for wearing an “Anti-Zionist Vibes Only” t-shirt during multi-cultural week. Here is a case where some indigenous students empathize with another occupied people living under apartheid, the Palestinians.

    What is fascinating from a rhetorical standpoint, is that is the pro-Zionist Jewish community, the Hasbara Fellowship, has adopted “Indigeneity-talk”, claiming that Jews are “an indigenous people to the Land of Israel.” And, so say Hasbara, “it is clear [ASAY] members require further education on Jewish history, archaeology, and indigeneity.”

    https://hasbarafellowships.org/york-aboriginal-group-apologizes-for-anti-zionist-vibes-only-incident/

    Paul, I’ll hand these reins over to you.

    Part two.

    In this comment thread I’ve voiced my worry about whether efforts at indigenization will create a substantive gap in education for indigenous students. After some reflection, I deepen this worry that it might expand to create a substantive gap for non-indigenous students as well.

    It is possible that indigenization won’t amount to a whole lot from a scholarly perspective in the classroom. Rather, indigenization might amount to lip-service that allows indigenous students, who have been born with the shit-end-of-the stick instead of a silver spoon in their mouths, to thrive in a university environment, to feel like they “belong” and stick out their four years to get a degree. A degree that, as I’ve worried, might not mean they’ve received a substantive education. But then, there are a whole lot of “c-for-a-degree” or “bums in seats” non-indigenous students also walking out without a substantive education. However, all other things being equal, these students might have the edge for being non-indigenous.

    Here’s an opening to a “what’s a university for” conversation. Or, “what’s a scholarly community” for?

    Assuming that a scholarly community is worried about scholarship, I am worried that a substantive gap in the education of indigenous people might actually widen to comprise the education of indigenous and non-indigenous students alike. Here I share a personal case.

    As a philosophy grad student, I attended a seminar course intended for senior level philosophy students, aka a 4000-level seminar course. The topic was Evolutionary Moral Realism. And the professor, Michael Stingl, invited non-philosophy students to attend.

    During an in-class conversation, a senior philosophy student noted that not all legacies of colonialism are negative. And he proceeded to cite an example from colonialism in Africa.

    An indigenous woman sitting beside me turned to him and, with a vitriolic tone, said “You would say that, you’re a white male.” (Patriarchy and colonialism in one blow!)

    The response? Dead silence. Including, I’m ashamed to say, from me, who as a philosophy grad student should have been a leader. The senior student who made the comment about colonialism has not forgotten this incident four or five years later, not because he felt affronted but rather because of the puzzling silence in a seminar class.

    The indigenous woman lobbed an ad hominen circumstantial, attacking the person rather than critiquing his argument. Senior philosophy students have learned to avoid this kind of fallacious argumentation (in their 1000 level logic and critical thinking courses), or at least expect to be called out for making such a faux pas. Why was this woman’s remark met with silence?

    As for me. I’m a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman and I felt like I’d be white ‘splainin’. In other words, I was a coward. Why?

    Another grad student and other senior philosophy students in this course were also silent. And Stingl said nothing. He invited non-philosophy students into a seminar philosophy class and left his senior philosophy students high and dry. He failed his philosophy students, but he, and we, also failed the indigenous student. She might have honed her argumentation skills with some guidance, if she wanted any (argumentation skills and/or guidance).

    To be clear, no one took issue with the indigenous student’s revulsion to colonialism. The issue was the ad hominen attack. Because she didn’t know how to argue, she could not engage with the argument. Training doesn’t eliminate, but helps mitigate, some of these errors in reasoning. As does reasoning in groups, the point of reasoning in a scholarly community.

    The upshot? A discussion about colonialism in a university classroom did not take place. Students in the room were put on notice about the limits of the discussion, not so much by our classmate but by the moral and intellectual cowardice of others, Stingl and me included.

    If we can’t, don’t, or won’t challenge this student, we are not treating her as an intellectual peer.

    I can’t infer from this one incident the effects of “decolonization” and “indigenization” on the state of our scholarly community, broadly. And I do recognize that there are other “taboos” stifling scholarly discourse.

    But I do have reason to ask, what’s going on here?

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  10. To my dear McBro,

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  11. Paul’s preamble is fine as it stands for what it is or isn’t.

    It only begins when suggesting what decolonizing might mean, then is at a loss because Analytical Philosophy is the critical examination of such things. Maybe we could clear up his loss by looking at what he describes as what a critical examination would encompass?

    I’m not sure where Paul got the idea that colonizing is about who got here first but more to the point is how we’ve accepted the fact that we are both here now.
    In 1759, the British under General James Wolfe defeated the French forces under Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. The surrender of one white European group by another white European group was instructional in how the French were treated after their defeat. The British never defeated the Indigenous peoples but instead negotiated Treaties. Instead of honouring these treaties they not only reneged but began dismantling (and brutally so) all that they allowed the French to maintain after their defeat.
    The French lost a war but were dealt with as civilized people. The British made treaties with savages. The French remained Catholics; Indigenous people were considered heathens that needed saving; the French kept their schools; the British passed the Indian Act including Residential schools designed to extinguish their language and traditions.

    The U of L, like virtually all public institutions, would not be allowed to “abandon the colonizer’s language …” so their weak kneed approach to addressing white supremacy is to call for the “decolonization of the Classroom”.

    White Supremacy is insidious in all its subtle and not so subtle forms. Maybe we are all more comfortable with indoor plumbing and central heating but what are you trying to say professor?

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